25 June 2012

craft tip monday 6/25: into the “jungle”--what you don’t know

Welcome to the fourth and final foray into the “lost jungle” of writing. Thus far we have defined the landscape of the jungle, engaged in word play, and looked at fairy tales as inspirational locales for discovering writing ideas. This week, I want to close with a short musing on a topic that is, and will always be, near and dear to my writerly heart: writing "what you don’t know."

Into the Lost Jungle: Writing "What You Don't Know"

belly button writing

When we’ve talked about entering the lost jungle of writing, we have always been talking about writing, as poet Sandra Beasley phrased it, “beyond your own navel.” When Sandra speaks of writing beyond the standard “what I know” declamations, I believe she is pointing toward the added layer of writerly innovation that involves finding unique, often unseen, sometimes rather bizarre, connections between things.

Where there are strange connections, there, too, lives the lost jungle.

breathe in jungle

The lost jungle is, has always been, and will always be, a place for you to explore. It is a place to find out where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how---if you let them---words can and will guide you to remarkable places your eye and ear and tongue may elsewise have never seen or heard or tasted. The lost jungle is licking the moon. It is hearing the whisper of you older brother’s birth cries across time. It is seeing time unfold in sheets of gossamer paper.

breathe out jungle

Never be afraid to write not only what you know, but what you dare to know. Write what you long to know. Write your fears. Write your doubts. Write your questions. Create new worlds of experience. Find new ways to be, and breathe your way into a place where words catch you up like flying carpets and send you reeling.

There is plenty in life that we truly don’t know---but the glory of it is, the moment we say, “I don’t know anything about that,” we begin to know something about it. We cannot touch the wind, but we know it is untouchable. We know how gasses blend to make air, though we may not understand how we breathe. We know that when that man or woman rejects our advances we feel an indescribable pain---we cannot name it, we cannot stop it, nor can we understand it … but we know it exists.

Write that---write all the world you are certain you don’t know, and be certain you know it.

Your Turn: Take 10--15 minutes to free write about something you don't know. Write it as though you have known it all your life. Lie. Cheat that knowledge. Steal that knowledge. Write your knowledge into existence.


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Check out the "Lost Jungle" series in its entirety on Our Lost Jungle:


  1. Nice post! Very inspiring!
    My favorite line, "There is plenty in life that we truly don’t know---but the glory of it is, the moment we say, “I don’t know anything about that,” we begin to know something about it."
    Good point and very true!!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I love looking at my writing that way, because it gives me a great deal more freedom to write on topics even if, by "normal" standards, I don't know a whole lot about them :)

  2. like the idea of belly-button writing. i have a friend who is great at writing beyond herself and what she knows. perhaps i need to try it.

    1. It's definitely a "liberating" experience. Give it a shot and see what happens! (And don't forget to tell me about it ... I'm nosy like that!) :)


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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